Tag Archives: gluten

Apples to Apples

The articles going around decrying gluten free food that I mentioned yesterday claim that wheat is healthier because you’re missing all the vitamins and in place adding starch, sugar and fat.

Is this true? In some cases, I would hazard that yes it is, especially with packaged foods. However, there are many options out there that use GF whole grains, just as there are whole grain gluten varieties.

Instead of doing this:

Misleading image

Let’s try something novel! Let’s look at the numbers and compare apples to apples, as the saying goes.

People love white bread, so let’s compare the average white bread, with a commercial gluten free white bread, and a homemade white bread recipe that I regularly use.


Now, given the information above, I’d say that they are all rather on par, with the homemade version perhaps slightly healthier.  The calorie counter gives white bread a score of B, but that’s primarily due to the calcium content. Otherwise, it has more sugar, no more fiber, and and just as much sodium as the store bought GF white bread. It does, however, have more protein.

Looking at the homemade version, it has less sodium, potassium (which is absent in both store varieties), more iron than both, more fiber, and less fat. Other areas it is similar or maybe not as good, but on the whole, I would say that each of these is similar, with a few trade offs. Keep in mind that if one can eat dairy, milk can be added to the homemade recipe, which would increase the calcium content, but also the fat content.

Are there better, healthier options than these breads? Most definitely. There are multigrain breads in both gluten and non-gluten varieties, and homemade versions are nearly always better than both as they have no preservatives, and you can cut the amounts of salt and fat to taste.

So remember, whether it’s gluten filled or gluten free, read the label, as neither is magically “better”.


Humor Fail

A friend on FB tagged me in an article she linked. At first glance it is a humorous satire, but only on the surface.

Let’s look at a few assumptions the article makes:

  1.  Whole Foods is insanely expensive.– Yep, it is. So is the hospital, and healthcare, and higher education, and taxes. Cheap crap is so abundant that we’ve been sold the lie it’ll do just fine and anyone willing to pay more is a sucker. I don’t go to the hospital daily, and neither do most people go to Whole Foods daily. Usually it’s for specific items that are hard to find at the local grocery or pharmacy.
  2. The employees are asses trying to rob you blind.– So is the IRS, that dude on Craigslist, and the used car salesman, but we expect that it seems. The author describes hypocritical people, proclaiming hippie peace, but acting like thieving snakes. Clearly the store I go to was invaded by body double aliens who are polite, helpful, and don’t push me to buy anything I don’t want.
  3. The clientele are also hypocritical asses.- She mentions a dude in a Prius who nearly runs down a mother and child in the parking lot. I’m fairly certain the local grocery store has an equal number of jerkwads.
  4. Poor people don’t have food intolerance.- Tell that to the kid who attended daycare with my daughter as an infant. Tell that to the kids with milk and peanut allergies, the kids with psoriasis, the African American lady I met at the store whose grandson was diagnosed with Celiacs. I’ve met people in all walks of life with food allergies and intolerances. The poor simply have a harder time dealing with it. I’m living on a graduate student stipend and loans to feed the kiddos. I’m by no means rich, which means when my grocery bill doubled I felt it, and had to cut costs elsewhere. It’s that or be ill every day. To dismiss the concept as hypochondriac conditions made up by yuppies undercuts the struggles of all those people out there.
  5. The beauty isle will tell you how ugly you are and that you need to buy ten gazillion products to fix it. This is different from other stores how?

I could probably tear apart that article paragraph by paragraph. It comes down to the author possessing a highly judgmental attitude toward those she perceives as “hippies” and that it’s all a bunch of BS designed to drain your bank account. Nevermind that TV, internet and other stores hit you with ads convincing you, yes, you really do need another Swiffer product or the latest greatest cell phone, or a new car, etc. No, since Whole Foods sells organic food and specialty foods, clearly they are worse. She seems to miss the point that maybe not everyone fits in her picture, that perhaps some people are not gullible fools willing to buy anything, and that many of the products sold are available for a reason.

It’s taken three years for my local grocery store to carry most of the flours I require to bake gluten free, but they still don’t carry them all. Of all the doctors I saw, not one could prescribe or suggest anything to make me feel better. I read research articles and tried various supplements until I found ones that work.

Did you know, that the vast majority of modern medicine comes from natural products? Things like curcumin (tumeric) and quercetin are being heavily researched because they DO work, but the bio-availability is low, and of course they can’t make money off of it unless they come up with a patentable semi-synthetic version. NIH is stingy with funds these days. They wouldn’t fund it if the studies were lying about the natural products doing things like slowing cancer and killing microbes.

Sure, some of it is BS, but some isn’t. Maybe the author should wonder whether something is wrong with our general diet and healthcare approach if people have to turn to high priced supplements. Then again, I’m just a medicinal chemist. What would I know?

Uninvited Partiers

Last week I posted about a polymorphism that occurs in the opioid receptors in the gut, the highest prevalence of which occurs in fair skinned, freckled, red-heads. I’ve been doing more research and the little dots seem to be connecting.

A review in Neuroscience Letters explains that the gut is a neurological organ; kind of like a second brain. That puts a whole new light on going with your “gut feelings”, doesn’t it? One side effect of opioid (drugs like codeine) is that they slow down intestinal motility and alter the normal fluid absorption in the gut. Then, I found this article which mentioned that Ascaris suum, an intestinal parasitic worm, EXCRETES morphine! The little bugger has no receptors for it, so it’s making it to alter the environment inside its hosts. So, one could conjecture that the uninvited guests want to make the most out of your food, so it spikes the punch in hopes you get soused. Then they throw a party and expect you to be happy about it.  Those guys are really rude. My genes must be really poor judges of character. After all, they think gluten and casein are also morphine-like. Jeeze, they’ll do anything for a fix.

Since I’ve been evicting these uninvited revelers, that should mean no more spiked, punch, right? It seems so. Over the Thanksgiving break I made German potato salad and cornbread muffins. I ate both and even took a bite of corn on the cob, but the frozen corn I bought was bleh. I chased every meal with some crystallized ginger, but that was the extent of my “doctoring”. No hot flashes or sudden nausea (guess what can cause hot flashes–yep you guessed it– morphine). The worst was a bit of indigestion and some gas, kind of like when you eat beans. I didn’t eat a lot of either, but as little as a month ago one bite with traces of potato could trigger that reaction.

The ultimate test happened accidentally. I’d eaten turkey for lunch AND dinner three and half days in a row. It was awesome turkey, but I really needed a change of pace. I got sushi. The guy forgot not to add the crunchies, which have a small amount of wheat in them. The last time that happened, within ten minutes my waist looked like someone had pumped me full of air,  I had the hot flash/nausea reaction and I was sick for two days. I picked up some ginger to supplement what I had at the house, ate a fair amount, and I was good! I’m not going to go wild and eat whole wheat bread or some such craziness, but I don’t have to suffer anymore either!

Forget morphine. I rode a giddy high of relief all weekend that I’d had potato salad. I’m not even that big of a potato fan. Okay, I confess, it’s the hope that I can eat cheese again (in moderation) that had me walking on cloud nine.

A Series of Unfortunate Genes

Often times random events in our bodies appear totally unconnected, and then one stumbles upon something and realizes that all those little dots are connected.

About eight or nine years ago I developed a very bad cough following a run of the mill cold which thought it fun to follow up with bronchitis. This is not an unusual turn of events for an asthmatic, but I’ve learned since then how to nip that trend in the bud. In any case, the doctor prescribed Tylenol 3, aka tylenol w/codeine to help me sleep through the night without hacking up a lung. It had been perhaps ten years or so since I’d had it. The second night that I took it I went to bed and about two in the morning I woke up to excruciating pain. Of all the pains I’ve experienced, to date that one takes the cake. It had me in a cold sweat, my heart was racing, I had trouble catching my breath and I really, really wanted to hurl. In a bent over, old woman sort of shuffle I made it to the bathroom where I shook and trembled and waited for my innards to either hurl or stop their protesting. After about thirty minutes it mostly passed. Both my mother and my paternal grandfather developed a similar codeine sensitivity at some point in their adulthood.

I had a less severe, but also quite painful reaction the one time I took aspirin. Months back I posted about some of the foods which upset my innards. I stumbled upon a blog today which connected yet more dots in my unfortunate genetic sketch.

The blog explains the link between salicylates, opioids, gluten, and casein. The underlying cause appears to be a polymorphism in the opioid receptor. This effects how the body responds to both endogenous, meaning what your body naturally makes, and exogenous, referring to  external chemicals. Histamine, my evil nemesis, also plays a factor. One set of physical traits which seem to link to this polymorphism: fair skin, freckles, and red hair. Granted, my hair naturally appears blond, but look at the individual shades and they are all various shades of red ranging from pale strawberry blond, to medium honey blond, to dark auburn. *Ding* *Ding* *Ding*. I think we have a winner! Add in that I get very little buzz from things like alcohol, which trigger the dopamine/endorphin system, and the picture become depressingly clear. I have a series of unfortunate genes.

So even with casting out evil invaders, and on a side note that HAS helped things run more efficiently and my B12 deficiency seems to be disappearing totally, I will probably have to remain gluten and dairy free my whole life. The problem I have with testing foods now is that I get so freaked out over the mere possibility of becoming ill, that I think that triggers intestinal upset.

I ate a potato chip on Saturday. As a friend is wont to say, I did not swell up and fall over. Although, to be safe, I chased it w/ginger and quercetin. I felt perfectly fine later and the next day. Potatoes may possibly sneak back into my diet. I took a swig of goat’s milk. I think it maybe resulted in some gas, and dunno if it was my panic or the stench of goat’s milk that made me slightly queasy. I reserve judgement on that. I felt fine this morning, which has usually been the test. Severe reactions carry over to the next day.

It seems that what I require are those people that go around “secretly switching” people’s food. That way the “ZOMG, WHAT HAVE I DONE?” panic mode does not kick in.

Why do I imagine some of my more sadistic friends rubbing their hands and grinning?


Diagnosis Ick!

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, food and I have a complicated relationship.  For over three years I’ve been dealing with intestinal issues of one sort or another. I’ve read journal articles and blogs, cut various foods from my diet, and added an assortment of nutritional and herbal supplements.

It wasn’t until I added in the two herbal supplements I’ve been taking that I saw significant improvement. Being a scientist, I have a chronic case of “But, WHY?”

Why had my innards revolted in the first place? Why were other foods continuing to join the list? Why had my allergies gone berserk at about the same time my innards revolted?

As most scientific discoveries, I happened upon the answer quite by accident.

First, let me explain a bit about the difference between Celiacs and gluten intolerance/sensitivity. Both involve an inappropriate immune response from the body to a protein called gluten. Current studies confirm that Celiacs is autoimmune in pathology. This means that your body attacks itself. This is mediated via IgA (a type of antibody). I tested negative for IgA, which, while not conclusive, suggested that I did not have Celiacs, or at least not yet.

Gluten intolerance is a different creature altogether. It presents with much the same symptoms, but proceeds through all manner of immune responses.  Often, though, it is through the innate immunity branch of your immune system.

Adaptive immunity is what handles things like bacteria and viruses. Innate immunity is the first line of defense. It also happens to be the part of our immune system that is supposed to handle parasites, but those suckers are tricky and can sneak past our defenses.

There are a number of proponents that suggest leaky gut syndrome leads gluten sensitivity and other food intolerances. I suspect that’s on the money, but what causes the gut to be permeable may differ from one individual to another. Antibiotics and other drugs which irritate the gut, poor diet,  infections, and stress can all pile on top of each other. Maybe one day you pick up a stomach bug and that’s one too many things for your body to handle.

For me, the straw that broke the camel’s back was a nasty stomach flu virus which went around in Jan. 2010. Prior to that I had sporadic flare ups of intestinal upset, but after that my gut threw up its metaphorical hands and refused to function properly at all.

The key to healing any wound is to decrease inflammation, support the immune system, and ensure the body has the nutrients needed to facilitate healing. If infection is present, that should be treated.

Makes sense, right?

For the gut there are three major things to consider: bacteria, yeast and parasites.

I began taking probiotics several months back. The first three days were horrid. The package did not warn me about “die off”. When the bad bacteria die, they release endotoxins which send you running to the bathroom. I quit taking them and then after a week or so resumed at half the dose. I had no problems after that initial die off. Clearly, the bacterial population of my gut was skewed. I saw an improvement, but not anything to write home about. The probioitcs also aid in keeping yeast in check, so that’s kind of a two-in-one thing.

I added quercetin with bromelain and lastly, turmeric. All of these have either been shown or suspected to decrease inflammation and support immunity. What I did not realize is that the latter two also have mild antiparasitic properties.

Long story short, the unknown silent battle in my gut was caused by parasites. The typical western diet, high in carbs and processed foods, lacks the fresh herbs and vegetables known to eliminate or keep those suckers in check. The frequent headaches I’d been getting were due to toxin build-up as they died off. My tendency not to drink enough water didn’t help matters.

I purchased an herbal cleanse and my usually gurgly innards are much less gurlgy. I’ve gained a degree of regularity I haven’t seen since I was pregnant with Mr. Smarty-pants twelve years ago. I ate the quinoa/corn blend pasta without feeling queasy. Even better, I ate out at a sushi place we loved and had fried rice without feeling sick afterward!

These are tiny baby steps on the path to healing, but they are hopeful, positive signs that I’m not doomed to an ever decreasing diet. I won’t have to repress a surge of panic at the suggestion of eating out. One day, I might even eat cheese again.

Resistance is Futile!

I got a flu shot yesterday. Aside from the injection site being a bit tender, I’ve not a single symptom or side effect. Is my immune system even doing anything? Oh, wait, I think it’s busy attacking that last molecule of corn gluten I ate three days ago.

I have a sneaking suspicion that my immune system is run by the Borg. It attacks poor, innocent passersby while utterly ignoring invaders…until it deems them a threat. I remember many an episode where Picard or Janeway used that to their advantage.

Perhaps that’s why the whole autoimmune stuff becomes an issue. In assimilating new “species” the little drones get a bit confused over what exactly they are supposed to attack.


Location: Spleen

Drone: I report a contingent of cold viruses meandering through the airways.

Borg Queen: Indeed. Leave them be unless they attack. Target the incoming dust and attack on my mark!

Drone: <does as told without any expression whatsoever>

Virus: <Sneaks up and attacks Drone>

Queen:  <Drone’s distress registers in hive mind> Hahaha. You will be assimilated.

Virus: <grins as gazillions of copies appear with rotating frequency phaser rifles> Assimilate this!


Perhaps I need a Locutus….


Gluten WTH List

For those who might not have seen my posts on the subject, I suffer from gluten intolerance. I cannot, without a doubt, say that I have Celiacs, as I did not do the biopsy. In either case, the symptoms and the treatment are the same.  AVOID GLUTEN.

One of the most common complaints of the newly diagnosed Celiac patient or gluten intolerant individual is that it is exceedingly difficult to be certain all sources of gluten have been eliminated and that shopping is a pain. Depending on where you live, sources for gluten free food can be minimal and pricey. Instead of buying that box of ramen for five bucks, one spends thirty on fresh fruits, vegetables, and meat. One can’t really argue that the ramen is better for you though. Most of the gluten free nutrition information sites stress avoiding processed foods. That$6.00 box of gluten free cookies is no healthier than gobbling a fistful of Oreos.

Over time it gets easier to shop once you know what brands to buy. No matter what, always take a quick glance at the ingredients to ensure they have not changed. Most of the times that I got glutenated on accident with food that I fixed it was because I did not carefully read the label. Also, depending on one’s tolerance level, cross-contamination can be a huge problem and drive that grocery bill even higher.

One would thing that cutting out bread, pasta and baked goods would take care of gluten. If only.

10 Not so obvious pitfalls (all of which I learned the hard way):

  1. Dry roasted nuts.- Some brands dusted with starch or flour
  2. Flash frozen salmon- coated with food starch
  3. ANY Oats not certified gluten free– Often cross-contamination during processing is the problem, but cross-pollination can also be the culprit. Barley, one of the gluten grains, belongs to the oat family. Barley and oats if grown in vicinity of each other can cross pollinate, resulting in oats which express the barley gluten.  Oats do have a type of gluten naturally and it varies from person to person whether or not they can be tolerated.
  4. Aunt Jamima Corn Meal, and any other “regular” brand- The only ingredient listed is cornmeal, but internet searches pull up complaints of cross contamination. Most of their products contain wheat, which likely means the meal is processed in the same facility and perhaps even on the same equipment. Depending on one’s sensitivity, this is something of which to be cognizant.
  5. Anything with “natural flavorings”- That term can cover about anything under the sun and until new FDA guidelines pass, avoid foods with this label unless it otherwise states that it is gluten free.
  6. Pork– Nearly all pork is injected with preservatives and whatnot. Read the label, as there is gluten free pork, but again, avoid any with “natural flavorings”. Another factor to be aware of is that pork is high in arachadonic acid, which can aggravate inflamed intestines.
  7. Store prepped rotisserie chickens. Some have flour mixed with the spice mix that is basted onto the bird.
  8. Seasoning mixes, soy sauce, and bouillon.- They toss in that “natural flavorings” and sometimes even list wheat as an anti-caking agent. Stick with individual herbs and spices or GF labeled brands. Some bouillon mixes label wheat, others don’t, but further research reveals them to contain wheat. Stick with brands that label their bouillon and broths as gluten free. Some brands of soy sauce only list soy, failing to mention that the alcohol used to ferment is sourced from wheat. Only true Tamari or special gluten free labeled brands are safe.
  9. Store prepped deli products- I’d never put flour in my potato salad, but I picked up every type at a deli one time, read the labels, and they all contained wheat. Never assume that because your homemade recipe doesn’t call for it that store made stuff is safe.
  10. Frozen Seasoned veggies or meats- Beware, as natural flavorings abound and the things that wheat or food starch go into can be deceiving. Stick with plain and season it yourself.